Can The Sacramento Kings Get It Right?

DeMarcus Cousins

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before….

A poor season that has failed to live up to expectations. Some shining lights, but for the most part, a myriad of on court / off court issues resulting in an extended off season period. Conjecture about relationships, star player musing abstractly, trade rumours, a draft that includes a lottery pick and plenty of hope, shattered dreams, questionable decisions, more trade rumours…..

This isn’t a poorly scripted sitcom or straight to TV mini-drama, this is the life of the Sacramento Kings.

I’ve always enjoyed the Kings, especially watching them during their “hey-day” with Jayson Williams, Mike Bibby, Chris Webber etc. Unfortunately, these days, it’s uglier than Doug Christie. It shouldn’t be. The Kings have the best centre in the game on their roster (@ me all you want. Take away the frustration with franchise and coach and you have a brilliantly talented big man that ANY team would take in a heartbeat) and have had ample opportunity to build around him via the NBA Draft and free agency, but something just seems to doom the franchise at every turn. DeMarcus Cousins has been frustrated each and every season he has been in the league. It has shown on the court with a range of technical fouls and indiscretions, but it is simply because he wants to win. He is talented, used to winning, works hard – and gets no love or support. Rudy Gay is a solid but uninspiring running mate, and the best fit teammate Rajon Rondo just did the equivalent of a college star “one and done” campaign to boost his value and bolted at the first chance he got.

DeMarcus Cousins vs Serge

Now, with Boogie dominating on the world stage at the Olympics, the Sacramento Kings appear to be on borrowed time as teams start to circle. Vlade Divac has made it known that Cousins is a required player, but how long can they underachieve and rely on DMC staying put and not flexing his “superstar muscle” to secure passage to a team where he might see vastly more numbers in the W column? It appears on face value that Cousins WANTS to succeed in Sacramento. While he questions the draft decision (who didn’t) and other moves publicly, it seems to be more of a cry for help than displaying the necessary behaviour to get traded. The big guy is a lovable larrikin off the floor (just look at his social media accounts during the Olympics) but he is a warrior on the court – and he wants help. And a little respect, but mostly just help.

With Rondo out the door questioning the work ethic of the team, with George Karl being replaced by “big man friendly” head coach David Joerger – there seems to be some changing of the guard. But it’s the guards that actually need changing. They have been patient with Ben McLemore who hasn’t lived up to the billing (and only hurts the Sacramento Kings draft case), Darren Collison is serviceable but unspectacular and has a domestic violence case causing some uncertainty and not much else. This off-season, they brought in Arron Afflalo who, even at his age, will be a decent two way wing, Matt Barnes, Garrett Temple (what?) and Anthony Tolliver. Not exactly the off-season of dreams if you are a Kings fan (or superstar centre). Have they even gotten better? They drafted a couple of centres who are projects and Skal Labissiere who is talented but not quite NBA ready yet – and this is after they took Willie Cauley-Stein last draft!

To be frank – it is uninspiring and I can see why Cousins and even Rudy Gay are upset at the current state of affairs. So what can the Kings do now to try and right the wrongs before big Boogie forces his way to another team?

Two words – Eric Bledsoe. His former college buddy is exactly what the Kings need. He is athletic, can score the basketball and also distribute, loves transition like Boogie does, gets to the rack…. Injuries have lowered his value, but he is still a very valuable player – and a great fit in Sacramento. The Suns have Brandon Knight and Devin Booker in the backcourt, so Bledsoe or Knight are expendable. Given the injury history of Bledsoe and the fact that Booker is a scorer and Knight is seemingly a better fit, Bledsoe could be moved. It’s not unfathomable is it? The Suns are building around Booker who is going to be at LEAST as good as Klay Thompson if not better, they have some good young bigs but could use a small forward who can put the ball in the basket. This is where Rudy Gay comes in. He has also voiced his concerns with the Kings franchise and would be open to a move. So, you could be a straight up Gay for Bledsoe swap, both teams are as good or better (forget that the trade machine says the Kings might lose out a little on this) and in the process, keep Cousins happy.

Eric Bledsoe

In the modern sporting landscape, it seems as though the pressure has increased for front offices. Players are now choosing where they want to play, where they can win, what type of environment they’re in, how nice the city they live in is etc. It is becoming less and less about “the most money” and loyalty. The Sacramento Kings cannot sit by and hope that Cousins is loyal, they need to make the Sacramento Kings competitive, they need to show vision and a stable foundation. The Oklahoma City Thunder spent 9 years making their team competitive, making the tough calls, building a winning culture and they still couldn’t keep Kevin Durant – even with more money.

Plenty of people like Boogie and want him to succeed, but it’s worrying that the majority of fans believe he has to leave Sacramento in order to get that done. It’s time for the Kings to get it right. Atone for the firing of Mike Malone, beg for forgiveness for your draft follies and go and get a star player to pair with Cousins and start to push for that 8th seed in the West. Whether that piece is Bledsoe or not, it doesn’t really matter (but I do think those two guys would be great fun to watch and have a great bond away from basketball too) but something has to go right. And it has to be now.

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